In 1927, the town of Red Fork on Tulsa’s southwest side was incorporated into the city. It’s where Tulsa County’s first oil discovery was made (Sue Bland Well No. 1) and is still home to a large, active rail yard. There were several communities in what is now Southwest Tulsa, actually; all still home to passionate long-time residents. Depending on who you ask, residents might still say they are from Red Fork, or Carbondale, or Garden City instead of Tulsa.
The main road is today known as Southwest Boulevard (named such in 1957 by changing portions of Quanah Street, Maybelle, and Sapulpa Road). In the early days, it had been on the Ozark Trail and became part of US Highway 66 when the federal highway system was established in 1926. As such, the area saw a significant amount of traffic. For travelers and locals alike, the Crystal City Amusement Park was a centerpiece and highlight of the area.
Tulsa’s Crystal City Amusement Park opened in 1928, incorporating elements of an existing park that had been there for some years but had fallen on hard times. The new ownership and energy brought a lot of new development, though the park continued to have a quiet, natural area for picnics as well as the latest amusements.
Crystal City was the home of the original ZINGO roller coaster. Decades later, Bell’s Amusement Park at the Tulsa Fairgrounds would build a new wooden roller coaster and give it the same name.
There was a miniature railway complete with station, built from native rock from Marble City, Oklahoma. It had a roller-skating rink, Ferris wheel, “Dodgem” cars, and the largest swimming pool in Oklahoma (1.2 million gallons of “sparkling, filtered Spavinaw water”). There was even a rodeo arena!
The Casa Loma Dance Hall was also a popular part of the park. It sat back on the lot, fronted by a creek and surrounded by the natural grounds that served as the public picnic area.
Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys played there often, as did orchestras and jazz performers from around the country. Casa Loma Terrace, a 13,000 sq. ft. outdoor dance pavilion, was added in 1937.
In the 1940s, the dance hall and terrace hosted Juneteenth celebrations and was often celebrated as a welcome venue for black performers. Advertisements called out that it was just a short bus ride from Greenwood, the predominantly black neighborhood on the north side of town.
Business declined in the post-war years and Crystal City Amusement Park closed in 1948. Several of the old rides were purchased by Lakeview Amusement in Mohawk Park. The picnic area remained open and the Casa Loma Ballroom/Terrace continued to host concerts for several years afterwards.
In 1956, several fires destroyed the old bath house and the vacant Casa Loma Dance Hall. The rest of the site was razed and the Crystal City Shopping Center opened on March 1 1960.
It still operates today on the west end of Tulsa’s Route 66 corridor. The vertical pillars are inspired by the original park’s architecture. The entire area is seeing a resurgence thanks to overall development of Route 66 and the continued passion of Tulsa’s westside community.
12 thoughts on “Tulsa’s Crystal City”
Good job Rhys ! Glad to see that pic with Sharpes in it . I won’t have to go clear to Chandler anymore!
Well done! Wish I had been around in those days for the experience!
The Crystal City Caper
During the late years of the 1920s through the mid-years of the 1940s, the Red Fork area of Tulsa had the historically famous Crystal City Amusement Park that entertained many parents and grandparents of my generation with rides, swimming, dancing, and just wonderful nightly entertainment. During my young years, it was mentioned by the older folks in their “remember when” type conversations among that generation’s friends and families.
During the early 9th grade at Clinton junior high School, some of my friends and I became curious about those vacated old buildings still existing within a barb wire fence line area. Keep out signs were prominently placed on the fence to emphasize the reason for the barb wire fencing. All of that warning seen by our small gang of Jimmy, Randy, Gary, Bobby, and me actually was a temptation during one weekend mid-afternoon day just before the school year was to be started. “What do you think is in that white old building over there?” was the question that started the ‘The Crystal City Caper” that to this day is remembered.
The barb wire fence was too high to go over the top so as one of the group would pull up on the wires each of us was able to roll under the fence. Once gathered together we walked toward the “mystery building”. Looking in through the broken boards prompted an immediate “Wow, look at that!” whispered comment from one of the group. What we saw was a large number of Pinball Machines lined up perfectly waiting for itchy young hands to see if the machines still worked.
Just a little working of the rotten boards gave us sufficient space to squeeze into the room that was expected to delight each of us in this gang of determined young teens. With widened eyes, we each moved toward our chosen pinball machine when the loud sound of “pop-pop-pop” was heard outside. Simultaneously all five of us guys “hit the deck”. We were totally silent as we carefully looked out a broken window to see a man pointing a gun in the direction of two other young teens as they ran away from the “gunman” presumed to be a security watchman. Not moving a mussel we five waited a sufficient amount of time to ensure our unknown getaway back to where we came from, however, we didn’t walk but ran at our full speed toward the high-level barb wire fence. Not one of us rolled under that fence but with unexpected energy, each of us found the ability to clear that same barb wire fence. A city block away the gang reassembled and agreed to “never to do that again!”
It’s now more than 63 years ago that this “caper” happened. Until this story is now written no one is expected to know of the event that scared the heck out of five curious teen boys, so reader, please keep this confession under your hat, Ok?
WOW. What a great read. I knew Crystal City shopping center well, it was near my grandma’s neighborhood, and Lakeview Amusement Park was near where I grew up. 3/1/60 was a big day for Elvis, Crystal City, and me! 😉
Fantastic article, Rhys! I love reading about Tulsa’s history.
Fabulous articles. 1st paragraph mentioning Sue Bland #1 oil well was my Aunt Maureen Bland’s well. So many memories. Haven’t lived in Tulsa for 50 years, but still have family there. Thanks for the journey down memory lane.
Patricia Adkison Copass
A great article. Seems as only a couple years ago that I lived in West Tulsa on Maybelle one block from the Texaco Refinery Gates. Moved to Dawson in 5th grade but continued attending Phoenix Ave. Baptist Church for a couple years after we moved.
I’m one of those that when I drive down a street I always wonder what businesses
used to be there decades earlier,fascinating article, thank you
Grew up in the area. On summer nights with the windows open, we could hear the phrase “Take it away, Leon!” from our bedroom windows. Great remembrance of Crystal City.
Phyllis Swift: My family lived on S. 32nd W. Ave. off 41st West Ave. – street ended at the railroad tracks and the now SW Blvd was next , then Crystal City Swimming Pool with the “peek thru” dressing cubicles. Can you guess where my 4 older Mays brothers liked to spend their time in the warmer months. I do remember the music floating thru the open windows from the Casa Loma. I also remember the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police annual Christmas Party/Dance for the families of our Tulsa Policemen and Women. My Dad became a policeman at a very young age, and before Tulsa had an actual Police Department……..when each newly elected Tulsa Mayor hired his own police. When a Police Dept. was formed, he continued on the force. I have many memories from those times, especially when trained as a Junior Police during the prohibition days on alcohol (especially sold to minors). I look forward to future issues.
Yes Phyllis this is David Prater . I too lived on 32nd W Ave south of 41st Street
Remember walking to Crystal City down to end of the street then across the railroad tracks and SW Blvd to the park and swimming pool.
My family lived close to Crystal City then. I remember it well. Wish it was still there. Does anyone have a pic of Texico Refinery lit up at Christmas. My daddy worked there and took us to the party on Christmas! Wonderful time to grow up!!! Thanks, Vontreba